ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Ro Panuganti

By Emily McMillan

Ro Panuganti, co-director of the most recent installment in the Multiplayer series, has been raising money for Water.Org with Multiplayer III: WAVE. The album brings together cover musicians from all over, including Materia Collective, joining forces for the first time with the charity group to help create an album whose proceeds are completely donated to supplying clean water to continents all over the globe.

Ro Panuganti

“When David and I thought more and more about new charities to help support, the idea of theming the album based on the charity came to fruition,” says Ro about the album’s theme and content. WAVE features a cover tracks of water levels from a large variety of games. “Thanks to my sister and many friends’ work with water-purity and clean drinking water charities like Water Org, we knew that having a water based album would be best. It strikes a chord with gamers knowing about the “dreaded water levels” as well as the exciting beach worlds, aquatic life, and overall the powerful message that the gift of water gives.”

Part of the uniqueness of WAVE is the combination of groups like Materia and GameLark on Multiplayer to bring together two large groups of overlapping musicians to create a larger setlist of tracks, and involved performers and arrangers, than previously on Multiplayer.

“We invited the dedicated, talented, and professional musicians from GameLark and Materia Collective to participate in our charity album to have this rich and diverse sound, and are very happy with the way Multiplayer III turned out as a result. While the process was much more difficult, having to manage close to 60 musicians and combining the organization techniques of Multiplayer and Materia, we also ended up with more tracks in underrepresented styles,” adds Ro, regarding the benefits of working with such a large range of musicians.

“With Materia’s assistance, we have the ability to host a website with biographies for all the musicians, a greater reach of audience to spread the charitable message, and ultimately Multiplayer gets a chance to grow as a project. I could not be happier directing with David and Sebastian, and I think these steps will let Multiplayer evolve into a better charity to save more lives.”

Name? Ro ‘Swiggles’ Panuganti

Musical Background (What sort of musical projects are you/have you been involved in? How did you get started in music?)
I got started with music early, being exposed to my parent’s classic rock CDs and driven to outplay my sister in piano. After several years of learning classical-piano, I moved out of the country and learned recorder, trumpet, and other conventionally-taught instruments. After being exposed to more radio music and heavier rock, I went head-first into learning electric guitar (and thanks to the recording community, bass guitar and more).

Through 9 years of playing and eventually recording, I have become comfortable on the 7-string Electric Guitar, bass, synths/keyboards, even singing a little bit! While I have never been in a band, I have created over 100 video game remixes on YouTube, co-directed the Multiplayer Charity for 3 albums, performed and assisted-mix for 3 Materia albums, 3 GameLark albums, created the VGCovers subreddit for helping cover artists, and actively participate in creating contests and guides to engage the growing community.

What was the first video game you played?
This is a tricky one, but my oldest memories will be of F-Zero, Donkey Kong Country, or a ridiculously-old title called MegaRace.

What does video game music mean to you?
Video game music to me, is the flavor of the game and an incredible world within one aspect of games. Although I truly believe music is music, and I love all sorts from cinematic score to the most complicated progressive metal, video game tunes work extremely hard to engage the player in different emotions. I love the idea of leitmotifs in video games, such as hearing Zelda’s Lullaby reoccur when the player is supposed to feel for the Princess’ plight, or hearing Smile and Tears in Earthbound during a heartfelt moment.

Though my remixes tend to deviate from the original songs, the stories told inside video game music and songs stick with me well and honoring them with covers and albums is amazing. 

Why did you participate with the Materia Collective? How did you get involved?
When Sebastian (Materia founder) suggested organizing a large-scale group for releasing video game cover albums, I knew I had to join. The opportunity to meet and work with new musicians, improve my organization and project-management skills, and having an excuse to create even more music are all the reason I need to be a part of the Materia Collective.

If you could have any dream job in the music world, what would it be?
While my career is in Software Development and Computer Science, I would love the opportunity to record/produce/perform my own music, let alone design my own Digital-Audio-Workstation and other music software for the world to use. 

How do you deal with constructive criticism?
Criticism is one of the most challenging but important parts of making music to me. While being a Youtuber allows me to receive every kind of criticism, I find that being critical of myself is one of the best ways to shoot high. I often ask musicians both close to the genre and far for their opinion, as general as possible, to see how fresh ears can perceive it.

When my playing is called to question, I push myself to think of how I could have played more on time, improved my intonation, or mixed more balanced. If I can picture my song perfected and communicate that, I’m that much closer to being happy. 

In an alternate reality, what would your passion be instead of music/video games?
Since I’ve covered my other passion being computer science and software, I’d love to be into professional cooking (as my friends can attest). 

What inspires you, as a musician?
Playing incredible video games, watching thrilling movies, seeing insanely-talented musicians innovate themselves, and being bored elsewhere (and letting the riffs and tunes come into my brain). Loved ones can also inspire through motivation and support! 

What’s something about you most people might not know?
Despite my old moniker, I was born in 1993, not 1987! I have also gotten to travel to over 30 different countries in N.A, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and lived in Japan for 3 years. 

If you are in a room of 50 strangers for an hour, about how many of them would you introduce yourself to and/or try to get to know?
I would probably introduce myself to the 10 quietest ones, since I would relate the most. Then I’d try to create a spectacle and attract the attention of the other 40.

What age would you want to be/look like forever (physically)?
Depends on if I look better in the next few years, here’s hoping! 

If you could make any fictional character real and also be your best friend, who would you pick?
I definitely feel lucky enough to have some tremendous best friends, but having a Charizard would solve much of my parking and fire-related life problems!

Favorite Pokemon?
Charmander for cute ones, Charizard for awesome ones. Magmar is a bit special to me too!

Favorite color?
Red all the way, but I notice more and more I like wearing blue!

Favorite video game/soundtrack/song?
This is the toughest of all. I’m partial to Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and Pokemon Gold/Silver. Anything I cover tends to be from a game I adore.

Favorite Meme?
I take it back this is the hardest question ever. I’ve been recently loving the Pacha “when the sun hits those ridges just right, those hills sing” meme, and I can’t explain why.

Who do you main in Super Smash Bros?
In Smash Melee it’s Ness, in Smash 4 it’s Greninja or Mewtwo, and in others it’s Ness. I like Ness.

If you had to pick an emoji/emoticon to represent yourself, which one would you pick? XD

Most anticipated game?
Breath of the Wild, Elder Scrolls VI, and Pokemon Sun/Moon is creeping up on me.

BONUS QUESTION:

Any musical endeavors you haven’t done yet that you want to tackle? Different genres, games, instruments?
I dream of making an original EP or album, I plan to tackle the Elder Scrolls series in an album form, I’m working towards having my production quality up there with my heroes’.

I would love to work more in jazz fusion and live venues, and I’d love to be a better guitarist, singer, and pianist!